The Metro Council Agenda and Council staff analysis for the August 5th meeting is now available. Council meetings are really boring if you don't know what is happening. With an agenda and an analysis they are still boring but not quit as boring.
I am only hitting the high points so if you want more knowledge, read the agenda for yourself. There are seven appointments to boards and commission on the agenda for confirmation which routinely happens without dissent or discussion. None of these appointees are to the controversial or troubled agencies. There are two bills on public hearing granting waivers to the distance requirements for beer permits. There are ten rezoning bills on public hearing. While neighbors may be very opinionated about a proposal for rezoning in their neighborhood, usually these bill or of little general interest. I don't see any rezoning bills worthy of mentioning.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1168 approves MDHA building a 1183 car parking garage downtown. I think more parking is needed downtown and parking revenue should pay for the project. It is interesting how this is being funded. MDHA is leasing the garage to a private firm which then leases it back to MDHA. This lease-back arrangement allows the city to build the garage without having the money to do it. There would be a liability on the city to pay the bill if parking revenues do not cover the cost but this seems like a good way to finance the project and a safe investment. The effective interest rate of this funding mechanism is about 4.8%.
Most of the other resolution are simply settling legal claims against the city or accepting grants from the State or non-profit organizations. Most of these are routine. It is hard to turn down free money but that is often what causes government to become bloated. An organization may provide the funding for a position for the first year, then if they do not continue to provide funding, the city must fund the position or cut the position and function. I hope someone is looking at all of these grants with an eye toward future obligation of the city. Sometimes free money is costly.
One resolution that raises a red flag is RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1181 which is accepting a grant in the amount of $100,000 from Smart Growth America. I actually favor what is considered "smart growth," which generally means growth that is pedestrian friendly, in fill developments and greater density. What concerns me about this bill is that the funds are to be used "to establish a framework to establish and measure progress towards metrics to improve public health, reduce social inequities, protect the environment, and enhance public involvement in transportation decision-making. I am all for reducing social inequities, but I would want to know what that means exactly and what we are buying by accepting this money. Also, I am for protecting the environment, but I would want to know if that had any specific meaning. I hope someone in the Council actually reads the grant.
There are 14 bills on First Reading. I have not read them. First Reading is a formality that allows bills to be on the agenda. They are generally not discussed on First Reading, they have not yet been to committee and they almost always all pass by a single vote of the Council.
Bills on Second Reading:
BILL NO. BL2014-771 creates a new zoning called a "contextual overlay district." This designation would establish a requirement for neighborhood compatibility for in-fill development where adopted. It would establish set back requirements, height limits and lot coverage limits so in- fill is not terribly out of character of the surrounding neighborhood. Already the same thing can be accomplished with an Urban Design Overlay, but this would make it easier. I have mixed views of this, but tend to oppose it. There are some neighborhoods that have been transformed from neighborhoods with homes in the $75,000 to $100,000 range to neighborhood were the homes are worth up to $650,000. If this had been in place those transformation would not have occurred. These transformations do destroy “affordable” housing but they also respond to market demand which results in a higher tax base. Do we want upper middle class people to all move to Williamson County or do we want to let market forces make room for them to live in Davidson County? Also, why should existing property owners who want to sell and move, not be permitted to get the highest dollar for their home? If allowed to be torn down, the lots are more valuable than the home on the lot. This bill has been approved by the Planning Commission.
BILL NO. BL2014-840 prohibit beer permits from being issued for establishments located within a shopping mall containing a community center and/or public library. In my view this is ridiculous. So there is a library at the other end of mall, what is it going to hurt to allow someone to have a beer with their meal?
BILL NO. BL2014-841 would establish a minimum size enclosure for an outside dog pen. I think people ought to treat their animals humanely, but should we micromanage everything?
I see no bills on third reading of interest.
Memorializing Resolutions do not carry the force of law but they express the will of the council. They will probably be lumped with resolutions on the consent agenda and be passes along with those by a single vote.
RESOLUTION NO. RS2014-1186 by Council members Tygard and Dominy recognizes Mr. Ken